|TOM OF FINLAND FOUNDATION|
OVER A QUARTER CENTURY OF DEDICATION TO PROTECTING, PRESERVING AND PROMOTING EROTIC ART.
|TOM'S INFLUENCE ON
PART 1: LEATHER & UNIFORMS
from his northern studio close to the North Pole in Finland, Touko Laaksonen,
aka ďTom of Finland,Ē had a wide-ranging influence on erotic art, culture,
and society at large in the last half of the 20th Century, an influence
that has increased rather than diminished since his death in 1991.
Tom of Finland, pencil on paper, 1952
Dispatches will highlight specific influences that our namesake had
on other artists of his and successive generationsóhow Tom influenced,
and continues to influence, modes of representation of the gay male
lifestyle in art and photography, the sexual (and racial) politics
inherent in his vision of a gay utopia, the positive reinforcement
his imagery has given to generations of gay males, the fetishistic
attention to clothing and uniforms that characterizes his work, even
the newfound attention that fashion couturiers now pay to his art.
his work continues to infiltrate the mainstream, Tomís influence ripples
through popular culture in ever-widening circles.
the end of WWII, Tom began drawing men in military uniformsóknee-high
boots, jodhpurs, and the classic officerís cap, now a staple of the
leathermanís uniform. Initially, Tom portrayed his men in WWII brown
leather, evincing a distinct fashion sensibility. Subsequently, in
1950, Tom was introduced to the classic black leather jacket worn
by returning American GIís who visited Finland in the postwar years,
building on the camaraderie with their former brothers-in-arms by
buying Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycles and getting together
to raise hell.
that black was much sexier, Tom transformed his men into black leather
officers and motorcycle toughs. Tom sent prints of his creations to
friends in England, Germany, and Sweden who reciprocated by sending
Tom photos of their newly designed leather ensembles incorporating
his look and style.
inspired, Tom continued to expand and develop this symbiotic relationship.
Hence, the leather bikerís cap evolved from the officerís cap of WWII,
and the now familiar side-flared leather breeches descended from the
dress uniform of WWII German officers. The knee-high boot with the
double and triple buckle was a Tom of Finland original. (Tom had something
for buckles, and the more the merrier.) But Tomís influence wasnít
limited only to the gay leather scene. It was adopted by Englandís
Teddy Boy rockers and eventually infiltrated America as the unofficial
bikerís uniform of leather motorcycle cap and white socks pulled and
folded above the top of the boot, another Tom original, and a look
that gained further veracity when it was worn by Marlon Brando in
The Wild One (1954) and Elvis Presley in his publicity photos.
As the leather scene of the past half-century evolved, it transcended
traditional sexual boundaries of straight and gay as gays adopted
Tomís ethos of pure, unbridled masculinity as their own within the
burgeoning gay subculture.
years back the Foundation had a booth at a heterosexual swingersí
convention in San Diego. A strapping, good looking man wearing knee-high
riding boots introduced himself and informed us that Tomís men, with
their pure sexuality, represented his ideal of the ubermensch. His
only disappointment, he added, was that Tom didnít include more women
engaging in sex with his men, but it wasnít acute enough to prevent
him purchasing a book on Tom for his 21-year-old son, whom he felt
needed to see the strong male prowess that characterized Tomís ubermen.
Taschen Verlag, who first published a monogram book on Tom, followed by the compendium Tom of Finland: Art of Pleasure, recently re-released in a smaller format, has announced it will publish a high-end book in Spring 2003 working only with the original drawings of Tom of Finland.
ó Durk Dehner
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“I know my little ‘dirty drawings’ are never going to hang in the main salons of the Louvre, but it would be nice if — I would like to say ‘when,’ but I better say ‘if’ — our world learns to accept all the different ways of loving. Then maybe I could have a place in one of the smaller side rooms.” (1991) — Tom of Finland